Behind the Menu: From meatballs to mushrooms, Basi Italia boasts fresh ingredients
When Basi Italia opened 19 years ago in Victorian Village, it was part of a small but growing brand of Italian restaurants that were offering more regional fare and using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Still, there’s room for the red-sauce classics,” said John Dornback, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Trish Gentile.
A spaghetti and meatball dinner ($25) comes with a Caesar salad, four meatballs and tiramisu. Pan-fried zucchini, prepared with a simple egg wash and breading, can be substituted for the meatballs. A spaghetti dinner for two is $45.
Dornback puts a lot of effort into the meatballs (four per individual dinner), whose ingredients include veal, pork and ground beef, fennel, golden raisins, pine nuts and fennel seeds.
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The not-so-secret ingredient is ground mortadella, a lunchmeat similar to bologna.
“It keeps them moist,” Dornback said. “The mix is key because there’s nothing like a dry meatball.”
The sauce is a simple pomodoro with fresh plum tomatoes, basil and some dried spices that’s cooked slowly but not too long in order keep the flavors fresh.
Basi’s gnocchi ($24) are unlike the miniature potato dumplings with which many are familiar.
The kitchen uses ricotta, cheese, eggs and spice and flattens the dumplings on a steel tin, where they brown and expand in the oven. They’re paired with thin slices of snow peas, asparagus and carrots and dressed with spring-onion aioli.
“It’s very light but it’s also very satisfying,” he said.
Lamb chops ($38) are marinated and grilled, served with chive mashed potatoes, tzatziki and a gremolata — dashed across the meat upon serving — that gets a refreshing touch of mint.
“It’s great and it’s versatile,” he said of the gremolata.
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Pork shank ($34) is brined for 24 hours in a type of barbecue sauce made of red wine vinegar, citrus peel, garlic and shallots, and served over a mash of corn and polenta.
“I think it presents well,” Dornback said. “With the bone in, it cooks so evenly, it’s so moist. It’s a classic dish.”
Those who love mushrooms need look no further than the flatbread ($16) that showcases fresh shiitakes, cremini, oyster and trumpet, matched with ricotta, truffles, caramelized onions, smoked sea salt and dried porcini powder adding more earthy depth.
“It’s a simple pie but it eats well,” he said. “It’s a nice way to showcase mushrooms.”
Zucchini pronto salad ($11) offers zucchini planks that are further whittled down to matchsticks. Almonds are toasted to a light brown and the haystack of zucchini is thrown into the pan for a quick saute, then gets a squeeze of lemon and a dash of parsley.
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The plate is finished with thin sheets of pecorino Romano.
“I just think it comes together really well,” Dornback said. “People love it.”
Where: 811 Highland St., Victorian Village
Hours: 4 p.m. to close Wednesdays through Saturdays; and closed Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays
Contact: 614-294-7383, https://www.basi-italia.com/